I was on work/travel this week in Western North Carolina, so unfortunately I missed my first Music City Roots since the show began last fall. Definitely a drag. My consolation was to actually hear the show on the 650 WSM-AM (the point after all), and hey, wow, I loved it, despite some lightning zap interference. The storms pursued me down the Cumberland Plateau, while ahead a psychedelic sunset played out between thunderheads, and I hope you had as epic a setting for listening. It was super to have Jim Lauderdale back on stage after a few weeks away, and I was delighted to hear the voice of my friend Peter Cooper of the Tennessean filling in for me on the Honest Abe Front Porch.
But as always, the main event was the music, and my heavens, as many times as I’ve heard him and as much as I sing his praises, Tim O’Brien blew me away once again. He brought a stunning little band comprised of Bryan Sutton, Stuart Duncan and Mike Bub to play songs from his new and superb Chicken And Egg album. Whichever came first, I’m certain Tim was awesome before that. I was also impressed by the tough-knuckled Southern roots rock of Kenneth Brian and the yearning modern mountain music of Jeff & Vida. I sure wish I could have been there.
So there’s no way I’ll miss the show this coming week. Loads of bluegrass after all, including visits from Claire Lynch and Chris Jones. Each is an architect of an original sound, each a lover of the good old good ones. The lady is a veteran of stage and studio – the dude a denizen of satellite radio. Writers of songs, leaders of fine bands, Lynch and Jones are in mid career glory, sounding as good as they ever have.
You might know Chris Jones from his broadcasting career, and it’s no secret we’ve got a weakness for broadcasters. Every day, Jones takes to the cosmic airwaves of Sirius XM to host one of the network’s anchoring bluegrass shows. His fellow DJ Ned Luberecki, who has played MCR with his pal Stephen Mougin, is in his band, and folks, he’s one of the music’s hottest banjo players. They call themselves the Night Drivers, which for some reason feels rather relevant to me.
The Claire Lynch Band knows how to drive too, like a bluegrass band should. Lynch grew up in Kingston, New York and northern Alabama, and when she joined a band called Hickory Wind, her path was set. They became the fabled Front Porch String Band, an ensemble that carved out a place for modernism in old time music, with Lynch’s crystalline vocals leading the way. From the 1980s on, Lynch has been an important solo artist and all-around musician, winning the IBMA’s Female Vocalist of the Year award in 1997, writing songs for all kinds of artists and singing harmony for the likes of Dolly Parton. Her band provided a platform for famed bass player Missy Raines and guitarist Jim Hurst to come to the fore. Her run with Rounder Records continues and her latest is Whatcha Gonna Do, one of 2009’s best roots albums.
Besides these grassy stars, we’ll be visited by Erinn Bates and Jude Toy, who play as the duo The Darlins. Turns out Erinn sang the Honest Abe Log Homes jingle for WSM, so she’ll be in familiar territory. The Junior League Band out of Washington DC, fronted by the dazzling Lissy Rosemont, will perform. As will one of the biggest, richest voices of 1980s country music – the wide-ranging hitmaker Gary Morris.
That should make for something worth the drive out to the edge of Music City. Come see us.